By: MOSES Kanyambindwa Lecturer –Agriculture AFRICAN RURAL UNIVERSITY  Kagadi Main Campus

Abstract

 In Uganda, the agricultural industry has the potential to alleviate poverty at a faster rate compared to other sectors. As such, many governments have initiated policies and programme to improve agricultural performance. However, some of these projects have not achieved success because the local agricultural markets are often controlled by a small group of stakeholders who tend to hide information in the market despite having huge market power. This paper aimed to determine the issues and impacts of the lack of market information in Uganda and to provide strategies for solving such problems. Results show that the presence of an oligopsonic market system, current information and communication technology (ICTs), the lack of market infrastructure and gender limitations are the main issues related to a lack of information. In turn, lack of information leads to an inefficient agricultural market, causes negative impacts on market participants, and ultimately leads to harmful socio-economic effects. Thus, to solve these problems, it is necessary to improve capacity building, increase access to ICTs and improve market infrastructure.

 Impacts of the lack of information

Farmers often receive information from family, friends, or traders in various markets. Unfortunately, given that such information is often inaccurate, it negatively impacts farmers, especially in the case of asymmetric information resulting in price fluctuations or price volatility. In general, price volatility has negative impacts on reducing producers’ income, disrupts agricultural markets and investments and increases the share of food expenditure over total consumption or food insecurity. Price volatility also has an impact on the use of labour. When agricultural product prices are low, children and adolescents are employed to replace adults on the farm. Conversely, when prices increase, this leads to increased infant and child mortality, the prevalence of undernourishment and food importation. Asymmetric information also has an impact on economic and social life related to the agricultural sectors in many developing countries. So far, various policy instruments implemented by policy makers and economists have been unable to limit this phenomenon. Furthermore, macroeconomic approaches to price stabilization in national economies are not that promising.

Proposed strategies to combat the lack of the information

Increasing capacity building. As individuals, farmers must improve their capabilities through training or obtaining a higher level of education. Farmers need training in effectively using mobile phones or other modern ICTs to help them obtain useful agricultural and market information Doing so can help small-holder farmers enhance their ability to interact with the market and ensure that they become active market participants. Likewise, ex-tension staff need this kind of training not only because of their limited ability to use ICTs but also because they are the ones who have the primary responsibility of teaching farmers about these technologies. Farmers also require training in how to negotiate and properly establish beneficial partnerships. Thus far, farmers have received more cultivation training but no marketing training. As a result, they are unable to find partners who are willing to buy their products at reasonable prices. In fact, when farmers meet potential business partners, they are more than likely to earn low prices due to their lack of negotiating skills. An ex-ample of the success of farmers’ progress in partnering and negotiating is demonstrated by the practice known as ‘contract farming’. This practice ensures that small–scale producers in developing countries continue to participate in markets whilst simultaneously overcoming asymmetric information problems. Furthermore, contract farming supports smallholders in developing countries by increasing production, income, and wealth. Therefore, farmers must receive support from extension staff or other parties to help them improve their partnership and negotiation skills. Agricultural sectors in developing countries also need farmers with the ability to organise and lead group activities to succeed on the market and connect with other market participants. Thus, the next step involves leadership training, which will prepare farmers to lead other farmers as well as help them become influential persons and be well recognized by other main stakeholders. They are also expected to lead significant changes in farmer behaviours, inter-action patterns and culture when new marketing innovations emerge. However, it must be noted that such an improvement takes time and proper opportunities for learning by doing, so the much-needed changes cannot be expected to happen quickly.

Conclusion

Many studies have indicated that agricultural sectors in many developing countries, including Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, suffer from a lack of market information. The first cause of the lack of information is the oligopsonic market system, which gives certain participants the power to manipulate the market and conspire to hide information. The second cause is the insufficient use of ICTs. Although the use of ICTs has been proven to provide many benefits, it turns out that many farmers and extension staff lack the skills to use them. As a result, ICTs are only used by a few farmers who have specific characteristics; they are still not optimally used in providing information to market participants. The third issue is the lack of infrastructure, which poses challenges to farmers seeking to access market information viaI CTs and physically reach markets from their respective rural areas. Finally, there are gender differences wherein women in developing countries are often marginalized, making it difficult for them to participate in the market and access market information. The real impact of this problem is price volatility, which makes market participants lose considerable profits. As commodity prices fall, this can also exacerbate social issues, such as when child labour is often used on farms to save on labour costs. Furthermore, farmers are often worried about market uncertainty, so they decide to either refuse or decrease their participation in the market. Finally, price volatility results in market inefficiency, which in turn negatively impacts market participants, especially in terms of decreased profits and benefits. The strategies proposed by the author to overcome the lack of information is to improve capacity building for both farmers and FMOs, to provide better access to information to farmers, especially the use of the agricultural market information systems, and to develop infrastructures, including those on telecommunications and transportation.

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HOW AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SYSTEMS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES CAN BE MADE MORE EFFICIENT: A CASE STUDY OF UGANDA.
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